Alprazolam and benzodiazepine prescribing - Rob Shieff

Date Published: 
Monday, April 17, 2017

Rob Shieff talks about the removal of alprazolam (Xanax) from the New Zealand pharmaceutical schedule and issues around benzodiazepine prescribing. Rob is a general adult psychiatrist practising in Auckland. His special interest is in the evaluation and management of anxiety and mood disorders. Rob has considerable experience in psycho-pharmacology and in delivering evidence based forms of psychotherapy. 



  • Why alprazolam (Xanax) is being discontinued in New Zealand.
  • How is withdrawal of this product being staggered to limit disruption to patients?
  • Practical measures for prescribers.
  • Key points for treatment of anxiety disorders in primary care.
  • Main indications for starting a benzodiazepine.
  • Information to share with a patient before initiating this type of treatment.
  • Tips on switching a patient from alprazolam if withdrawal is not currently an option.
  • Are there any other suitable funded alternatives?
  • Tips for weaning patients off benzodiazepines.


Take home messages

  • Don’t write any new prescriptions for alprazolam.
  • As of 1 September 2017 alprazolam will not be brought into New Zealand.
  • Educate patients about the tapering and either:
    • Replace completely with Diazepam and start tapering out.
    • Find an alternative either non-pharmacological or antidepressant.


Clinician Resources

Patient Resources



Dr Rob Shieff 
Specialist psychiatrist

To contact Rob Click here.




This podcast episode is supported by Pharmac

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